from Americana by Don DeLillo

The door of Quincy’s office was orange and his sofa was dark grey. Some of us in Weede’s group had doors of the same color but sofas of a different color. Some had identical sofas but different doors. Weede himself was the only one who had a red sofa. Weede and Ted Warburton were the only ones with black doors. Warburton’s sofa was dark green and so was Mars Tyler’s door. But Mars Tyler’s sofa was ecru, a shade lighter than Grove Palmer’s door. I had all this down on paper. On slow afternoons I used to study it, trying to find a pattern. I thought there might be a subtle color scheme designed by management and based on a man’s salary, ability, and prospects for advancement or decline. Why did no two people have identical sofas and doors? Why was Ted Warburton allowed to have a black door when the only other black door belonged to Weede Denney? Why was Reeves Chubb the only one with a primrose sofa? Why was Paul Joyner’s perfectly good maroon sofa replaced by a royal blue one? Why was my sofa the same color as Weede’s door? There were others who felt as I did. When Paul Joyner walked in to find a new sofa in his office he immediately started a rumor that he was being fired. But this sofa incident had taken place two years prior to the current rumor, the origins of which were never disclosed. He had not been fired; it was not that easy to find the connection. The connection was tenuous but I was sure it was there. At least a dozen times I had taken that piece of paper out of my files and tried to correlate a man’s standing with the color of his door and sofa. There had to be a key. If only I could find it. What I would do when and if I found it was a question that did not disturb me. I would do something. I would change something. I would have protection. I would know the riddle.

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